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June 15th, 2008
Violence As A Means of Resistance

During the 1994-1996 war in Chechnya, the Russian army tried to crush Chechen separatist guerrillas, killing tens of thousands of civilians in the process. A second conflict began in 1999, with a death toll reported to be in the thousands. The Russian occupation of Chechnya has also resulted in the disappearance of 1,200 to 2,000 suspected rebels and a major refugee crisis: 150,000 people fled Chechnya and 160,000 were displaced during the second conflict alone. Chechens have suffered both physical and psychological damage under the Russian army’s occupation.

The Russian army’s official death toll since 1999 is 3,000, and the Chechen rebels’ violent tactics have taken the lives of both Russians and Chechens who cooperate with them. The rebels’ deadliest weapons are mines, which run the risk of killing innocent civilian bystanders.

With this case study, students will explore the question of whether violence is an acceptable means of resistance to oppression or whether diplomacy and political solutions must be pursued instead. They will examine these perspectives:

  • It is acceptable for those struggling for independence or freedom from occupation to use violent means.
  • It is not acceptable for those struggling for independence or freedom from occupation to use violent means.

Using the Academic Controversy model, students will develop skills in: creating and presenting arguments; researching; collaboration and communication; conflict resolution and consensus-building. Students will be evaluated on participation, use of student organizers, and a culminating project, which will demonstrate their understanding of the content and their mastery of the Academic Controversy process.

Grade Level: 9-12

Time Allotment

Longer Version: This lesson can span from one to two weeks. Ideally, two to three days of introduction to Academic Controversy, student research, and position-development should be allowed; one to two days for engaging in the Academic Controversy itself (presentation of positions, open discussion, reversal of positions); and two days for the synthesis of the positions and the preparation of a joint report. If the teacher chooses to extend the lesson by assigning additional case studies to individual students or small groups of students, the lesson could last for a couple of weeks.

Compressed Version: This lesson could also be completed in two to three days. This would include one day for introduction to Academic Controversy, student research, position-development (with one to two homework assignments to supplement class time); one day for the structured controversy; and one day for the synthesis of the positions and the preparation of a joint report.

Learning Objectives:

Students Will

Investigate the history of the war in Chechnya, the impact of the Russian occupation on the lives of Chechens, and the consequences of the violence employed by both the Russian forces and the Chechen separatist rebels.

Explore the issue of violence vs. non-violence as a means of resistance to oppression and as a way to achieve independence.

Consider the alternatives to violence and what the pros and cons of such non-violent means might be.

Understand the following terms and concepts: separatists, guerrillas, occupation, civilians, independence

Develop research, presentation, writing and conflict resolution skills that can be applied to numerous other content areas and case studies.

Academic Standards:

Historical Understanding Standard 1

Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns Benchmark: Understands historical continuity and change related to a particular development or theme.

World History Standard 44

Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world Benchmarks: Understands the role of political ideology, religion, and ethnicity in shaping modern governments; Understands the role of ethnicity, cultural identity, and religious beliefs in shaping economic and political conflicts across the globe.

Civics Standard 22

Understands how the world is organized politically into nation-states, how nation-states interact with one another, and issues surrounding U.S. foreign policy. Benchmarks: Understands the purposes and functions of major governmental international organizations and major nongovernmental international organizations; Knows some important bilateral and multilateral agreements to which the United States is signatory.

Language Arts Standard 4

Gathers and uses information for research purposes. Benchmarks: Uses appropriate research methodology; Uses a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for research topics; Synthesizes information from multiple research studies to draw conclusions that go beyond those found in any of the individual studies; Writes research papers.

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